Each student must complete at least six graded seminars by May of the first year, and a total of at least 12 graded seminars (or 14, if the student opts to take two rather than three of the general field examinations as described below). At least 12 seminars should be completed by the end of the fourth semester of enrollment and, for those subject to the 14-course option, all 14 by end of the sixth semester. The required seminars must include at least one in each of three of the seven regular fields offered by the department. The director of graduate studies (DGS) must approve all course selections.
Seminars (500-level courses) may be chosen from the 20-30 typically offered in the department each year. Students may also take seminars offered by other social sciences departments and in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. These may be counted toward the seminar requirement if they have political content. All students taking courses outside the department must complete a comparable writing or examination requirement to Politics seminars in order for those courses to be counted toward the seminar requirement.
Students participating in the Program in Political Philosophy may compose a special field made up of courses in one of the other cooperating departments in the program (classics, history, philosophy, and religion). Other departments that have been of interest to students include economics, sociology, psychology, East Asian Studies, and Near Eastern Studies.
Students may also arrange individualized reading courses. Those who have begun their graduate work in another institution may petition for credit for graduate-level courses taken elsewhere if those courses are substantially similar to graduate seminars offered at Princeton.
By departmental rules, each politics seminar (including those cross-listed with other departments' course offerings) must offer two writing options: (1) a research paper or (2) several short, critical essays. This allows first-year students to choose at least one seminar per year to satisfy the first-year writing requirement while allowing all students to avoid an excessive workload of seminar papers in any given semester. Introductory seminars may, for pedagogical reasons, offer only the short-essay option. Seminars end on the last regular day of classes (in December or April), and students must complete all assigned short essays within one week of that day. Students complete their fall-term research papers by approximately the third week of January, and their spring-term research papers by the third week of May.